Author photo, Gillian Andrews

I was born in the UK, in a beautiful seaside town called Scarborough. Then I moved inland to another beautiful town called Knaresborough.  After a spell in London, I found myself in Spain, teaching EFL, then married to a Spaniard and living in Majorca.  I am now a Spanish citizen and live on what must be one of the most wonderful islands in the world.

I sometimes wonder why I write science fiction. But then, I have only got to look up at the night sky to answer that one. What else could I write about? I always get that feeling of awe. It started when I used to stare up at Orion on a clear night in Yorkshire, where I grew up. Just the scale of things out there is so mindboggling that it can’t help but leave you flabbergasted. My mum used to get quite exasperated with me. What on earth are you staring at for hours out there?

I originally went to university to study astronomy (quite a while ago, as you will have guessed from the photo). I gave it up after a week having got into an argument with the Tutor. For our first practical, which lasted all night long, he told us to go out to the park, lie on our backs and count the stars. Durr . . . I pointed out that a) that was impossible, b) that it was very cold outside and that the grass would be wet, and c) that I thought it was a stupid thing to ask. He told me to leave.

So I moved to another university to study maths and economics. And only recently found a course to pick up where I left off. It was great to be back, especially in the cosmology parts. 

I love trying to wrap my head around quantum nonlocality and entanglement. I haven’t really managed it yet, but it is the inside equivalent, for me, of standing staring up at the stars. It takes me a long, long way away from the mundane.

I research all the books pretty thoroughly, because I want the science behind them to be a continuation of things readers can Google easily on their own if they are interested enough to want to. That said, there is a world of difference between what is possible in my head, and what is currently possible or known here! But I am fascinated by astrophysics, which is why the books I write are what they are. Funny, exciting, and hopefully slightly stretching in a ‘what if’ sort of way. At least, that was the intention.

When you come home from a hard day’s work, kick off your shoes and lie back on that fantastic reclining armchair for a bit of peace and quiet, you might just need to fasten your seat belt! And when you reproach your son for being a “couch potato”, telling him he will get nowhere with that attitude, you might have to eat your words.

Scientists studying the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) have been able to find out exactly how fast we are travelling with respect to the rest of the universe. The CMB is radiation which was formed near the Big Bang and now pervades all of Space. Recent probes have been able to take “snapshots” of this remnant radiation.

The wonderful COBE background radiation results

Credit:The COBE datasets were developed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center under the guidance of the COBE Science Working Group.

Details from the COBE and WMAP satellites have enabled Scientists to measure the Doppler shifts with an accuracy never attained before. The Doppler effect changes the wavelength of the background radiation. Looking towards our direction of motion it is blue shifted, looking away it is red shifted.

Thanks to these very precise measurements we now know that we are collectively moving at nearly a quarter of the speed of light. That means that, in the time it has taken you to read this article you have travelled over a hundred thousand kilometers, and that in the blink of an eye you will cover six hundred and fifty kilometers.

Your armchair is currently travelling towards the constellation of Leo at over two million kilometers per hour! Hold on!

I started watching Sci-Fi when I was about twelve. In fact the only two programmes I used to watch totally against parental advice were Dr. Who and Top of the Pops. Both got generally grungy comments from my mother. Dr. Who was silly and people who watched it never would amount to anything. (Quite true, in my case!). Top of the Pops was absolutely degenerate, the rock bands all looked like girls, and for sure their parents would be ashamed of them. (Probably true, too.) Twice a week I would take control of the tv and defend it against infidels.

I am a lifelong Star Trek fan. I always get cross when people say the plot of  Star Trek is “silly”. OF COURSE it is – that is the whole point isn’t it? It is funny and sharp and outrageous. That, for me, is the whole reason to be of that kind of sci-fi (technically “soft”). There are great bits, like the wormhole aliens in Deep Space Nine, or the traveller from Tau alpha C in TNG, or – my favourite – Q. Wonderful characters who take you out of boring humdrumness and into the idea of wafting around the universe as light and omniscience. Great! Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…

Of course, this all comes from being an antisocial teenager. I wasn’t very sociable and could never see the point of sitting around talking to other people when I could be watching the Doctor come up against the Daleks 

(EXTERMINATE!,

EXTERMINATE!).

The world seems to be divided into people who like Sci-fi, usually rather fanatically, and people who hate it. My godmother, Kathleen, for example, when I sent her a copy of Valhai , made a valiant effort and then admitted that she “couldn’t do with it”; it “made no sense at all”!

I told my mother not even to attempt it, because I knew it would be absolute purgatory for her. In fact, I am the only one in the family who turned out “Sci-Fi”, so I have to thank those members who did actually manage to wade through the book! The words “science fiction” seem to bring about a glazed look of horror into so many people’s faces.

But I don’t regret finally taking the plunge with Valhai. Never! I read a bit about quantum physics, and have come to the conclusion that the Ammonite Galaxy series was always in my future. I just had no idea I was going there.

I started watching Sci-Fi when I was about twelve. I used to watch Dr. Who  totally against parental advice. It got generally grungy comments from my mother. Dr. Who was silly and people who watched it never would amount to anything. (Quite true, in my case!). (She was also convinced that rock music was absolutely degenerate,  rock bands all looked like girls or aliens, and for sure their parents would be ashamed of them. (Probably true, too.) Once a week I would take control of the tv and defend it against infidels.

I love the way that Dr. Who has reinvented itself over and over again.  I feel that there is an important life lesson for us all there.  We really don’t have to be the same old person all our lives.  I don’t think I have been.

I am a lifelong Star Trek fan. I always get cross when people say the plot of  Star Trek is “silly”. OF COURSE it is – that is the whole point isn’t it? It is funny and sharp and outrageous. That, for me, is the whole reason to be of that kind of sci-fi (technically “soft”). There are great bits, like the wormhole aliens in Deep Space Nine, or the traveller from Tau alpha C in TNG, or – my favourite – Q. Wonderful characters who take you out of boring humdrumness and into the idea of wafting around the universe as light and omniscience. Great! Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…

Of course, this all comes from being an antisocial teenager. I wasn’t very sociable and could never see the point of sitting around talking to other people when I could be watching the Doctor come up against the Daleks 

(EXTERMINATE!,

EXTERMINATE!

EXTERMINATE!).

The world seems to be divided into people who like Sci-fi, usually rather fanatically, and people who hate it. My godmother, Kathleen, for example, when I sent her a copy of Valhai , made a valiant effort and then admitted that she “couldn’t do with it”; it “made no sense at all”!

I told my mother not even to attempt it, because I knew it would be absolute purgatory for her. In fact, I am the only one in the family who turned out “Sci-Fi”, so I have to thank those members who did actually manage to wade through any of the books! The words “science fiction” seem to bring about a glazed look of horror into so many people’s faces.

But I don’t regret finally taking the plunge with Valhai. Never!

I have  been fascinated by quantum decoherence and entanglement since I first came across them.  But what fascinated me was never the physics, not the practical applications.  No, I needed to visualize what was happening, I needed to try to understand something about the meaning of it all … the interpretation of quantum mechanics!

 I have come to the conclusion that the Ammonite Galaxy series was always in my future.

I just had no idea I was going there, nor that I would write a further seven (hopefully to be eight) books exploring the ideas.

Quite a ride!

 I love reading and I don’t think I could give it up for very long. I try to catch up with my reading over the few months when I am not actually writing. I read pretty much anything. A couple of people have asked me what authors I like. That is hard to answer. Although I don’t read when I am actually writing, I still manage to get through a ton of books each year.

I am fairly eclectic as far as reading goes. A LOT of scifi of course. Too many to mention, really. Glynn Stewart, M C A Hogarth, Marko Kloos, Vera Nazarian, Lindsay Buroker. And many, many, more. Perhaps even most of them? Crime, too: I always read Michael Connelly’s books when they come out and I can get them in paper (too expensive in kindle!), and the Isabel Dalhousie series of Alexander McCall Smith, together with the Ladies Detective Agency series. Harry Potter, of course. Tolkien, naturally – I reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy fairly often. And Anne McCaffrey – no words good enough. Funnily enough, although I have read all of the Pern series my very very favourites are Helva (the Ship who Sang) and the Rowan series. Particularly Helva, which I think is one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever written. It is quite timeless, which is a sign of brilliance, I think. Mmm … who else? I’ll take a look at my bookshelves which are pretty overflowing.

Nowadays I nearly always read on a kindle, but there are old, OLD paperbacks from years ago. Dick Francis for horse racing whodunnits, Janet Evanovich for fun, Georgette Heyer for nostalgia in bad times, Douglas Adams for more fun, Dorothy Sayers for old times’ sake (also re-read fairly frequently), Jane Austin. There are even a few surviving Agatha Christie’s in there somewhere.

Then there’s my Kindle. Let’s see … Ah Nathan Lowell, with his strangely compelling Solar Clipper series. I thought the series was over, so I got a nice surprise there. I hope he just keeps going and going now he’s found his way back.

Then there’s the science books or the popular science books. I have all of Stephen Hawking, though I much prefer Marcus Chown and Michio Kako on the popular science front. (Heresy, I know!) My favourite science authors are Roger Penrose, Kip Thorne, Lee Smolin and Briane Greene, though one book I have really treasured is The Non-local Universe by Nadeau and Kafatos.

I was so thrilled to see that Roger Penrose finally got the Nobel prize!

I don’t have very good people skills (as my family would be the first to tell you), so you aren’t likely to find me signing copies of my books at bookshops, or giving talks. (Not that I get asked to give any) I really … REALLY … like writing. I wish I had been able to do it all my life, but other things got in the way. In any case I feel so good to be able to spend a few years doing something I have always loved so much now. It is a continual learning curve, in so many ways, but worth every single minute!

If there is anybody out there, reading this, and wondering how he/she could ever get the book they have inside them out, then my advice is … JUST LEAP IN!

Make mistakes, get some things right, get some wrong, keep learning, keep writing. There are the odd moments of mortification when you see some terrible mistake in a brand-new book, and realize you will have to upload the whole thing all over again, but there are some memorable moments too, when perhaps somebody writes to you to say that they really love your book. That has no price! Good luck.

Although I did have my first book published by Robert Hale in a conventional way, I was put off by the process and didn’t write again for many years. I will always be grateful that I was able to take advantage of the system changing. Before self-publishing I would probably have given up again after Valhai, but with the ease of putting the books up on Amazon (and other sites, later) I was able to glean just enough support from the readers who found the books or listened to the audio versions on Podiobooks (now sadly defunct) to get enough confidence to continue with the story of Six and Diva, Grace and Ledin, Arcan and the rest. I would never have written The Ammonite Galaxy series otherwise.

A word about success in writing. Success is relative. Am I successful? No, not at all, not on any real publishing level. But success is simply a matter of scale. I believe you are actually successful as a writer if one stranger becomes a fan, reads all your books, wants more. That means your words resonated with part of the population ‘out there’. The rest is just a matter of degree, and marketing. So if, like me, you have poured your soul into your writing, and haven’t hit it big, think … have you done what you always wanted to do? Can you glance at your ‘brag shelf’ and smile? Have you fulfilled a dream? Are you proud of your work? Have you enticed at least one stranger into becoming a true fan? If you can answer yes, yes, yes and yes … well, what more do you want??

Your books may even have a longer shelf life than YOU.

Who knows? Those words you liked so much may be read by future generations after you have long turned back into stardust. Would you trade money now for those distant unknown readers? Shakespeare told us that ‘The good is oft interred with their bones’, but you will have left something good behind. Some words behind. Just be happy for what you have accomplished. And writing IS an accomplishment. Even if it is only for you. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Please. Be proud.

So – to other writers who are just beginning – keep writing. But sometimes you can’t do what you want when you want. If that is your case, then just relax. Enjoy your life. Your time will come. Writing is one of the few things that will wait for you. And just maybe all those things that you experienced on the way will make your books richer …

MAKE IT SO!!

Xxx

I make it as real as possible.  Astronomy has always been a passion of mine, and I recently did a masters course … Back to school again!  (As a somewhat/very mature student)

Studying astronomy again is something that was always there, in the back of my mind. But until the internet got to where it is today I couldn’t really do very much about it. Finally, some years ago I started to do some courses from The University of Manchester, Jodrell Bank Observatory, and, more importantly,from the Liverpool John Moore’s University. They were great, but they were limited to about six courses, and didn’t seem to be planning anything further (at that time). I wanted to make these credits count for something, and the Open University looked far too institutionalized for me, so I was really pleased to find the University of Valencia course, which could lead to a full Masters.

It is a one year course, all over the internet, and you can submit work in English, though of course you will need to speak good Spanish to be able to follow the classes and the pdf’s. If you do speak good Spanish, though, I can really recommend the course. I guess there must be many thousands of people from North America who would enjoy it. There are already many South Americans taking the course.

The course consisted of 12 subjects at a rate of one every three weeks, then a final exam, then a practicum. You don’t really need too much math to get through the course. (Just as long as you aren’t intimidated by a couple of equations.) The exams are multiple choice, through the internet, so they can’t really ask you to calculate the answer to life, the universe and everything.

The most difficult part for me was when I saw IRAF. (A program written in the dark ages to clean up astronomical images and make them fit for human consumption). I nearly gave up on the spot, as I have never worked with linux or unix or anything like either of them. I must have printed out about 6 reams of paper about how to use IRAF and I couldn’t even find out how to open the *** thing. In the end it was, thankfully, all much easier than I thought it was going to be. Just a case of follow the instructions really. It turned out they had missed out a couple of steps in the instructions, and that was why I couldn’t get started. I got to be able to chat about virtual box and ubuntu with the best of them! (Not really, but I did get through the work set.) Part of the problem is that I applied the first year they were giving the course, so we picked up any glitches and get to sort them out.

The best part of the course, for me, turned out to be the master’s thesis. I knew I didn’t want to choose just an easy option – I didn’t decide to do a master’s at this time of my life for the easy way out. But on the other hand, my background is not all it should be in terms of tensors, Fourier transforms, and similar sorts of ogre-like subjects! I was very lucky to discover a topic I am really enthusiastic about, and which I hope could leave a tiny mark on Astrophysics. (Very tiny). A sort of Gill-Was-Here type thing in the sand.

I was amazed when we started the Cosmology unit how I simply couldn’t get my head around the expansion of the universe. I kept getting stuck. Finally I realized that I was literally stuck in the past, with pictures of balloons being blown up and expanding. The little knowledge I had as a young grammar school student had solidified and was blocking my progress now. Why? Because it was wrong. Just plain wrong. Yet it had percolated so far into my subconscious that it had become recognized as fact and anything that didn’t match with that preconception was being thrown out by my brain as illogical.

This was a huge revelation to me. I had, until then, had no idea that models like this could cause preconceptions that would actually hinder future progress. I was outraged at the thought of all the wasted time, and the thought of all the other people who might be in the same boat as me.

Which gave me the main aim of the thesis. To find a model of the universe that would better fit to the facts we know. Not just an “everything expands”, but a “some parts expand more than others”.

I worked quite hard to come up with the Timeslice Model, so I have to admit to being chuffed with it. It has helped me enormously with my understanding of the universe. OK, I know it is merely a model. Nothing earth-shattering. None the less, I believe it really can be useful for others too. At least, I hope so.

If you are interested in what the Timeslice Model looks like, there is a separate button for it up on the menu, and you can even click through to the original thesis. (Sorry – but I had to put it somewhere! I honestly think it will help people.)

PS. I did get the masters. Was it worth it? Quite definitely yes!!!

You can see some of the science used under the worlds built tab on the menu bar.

https://gillianandrews.com/web-stories/star-museums/

 

I have finally finished Spectacular Error, the second book in the Quantum Heritage trilogy.

The last book in the trilogy, and in the Major Shells arc will be The Last Bridge, which I am about to start (Feb 2024), so am hoping to get out some time in early 2025.  Lots and lots of things can  get in the way of this, so please just take this as a declaration of intentions.  We live in uncertain times.

I was going to write a small story called Casseopia’s Choice, before The Last Bridge.  But now I think I will make this short story the opening chapters of The Last Bridge.  I will have to see how the new story develops.  Thanks for your patience!